Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Redneck Night Before Christmas

'Twas the night before Christmas And all through the trailer
Not a creature was stirrin' 'Cept a redneck named Taylor.
His first name was Bubba, Joe was his middle,
And a-runnin' down his chin was a trickle of spittle.

His socks, they were hung by the chimney with care,
And therefore there was a foul stench in the air.
That Bubba got scared and rousted the boys.

There was Rufus, 12; Jim Bob was 11;
Dud goin' on 10; Otis was 7.
John, George and Chucky Were 5,4, and 3:
The twins were both girls So they let them be.

They jumped in their overalls, No need for a shirt,
Threw a hat on each head, Then turned with a jerk.
They ran to the gun rack That hung on the wall.
There were 17 shotguns; They grabbed them all.

Bubba said to the young'uns, "Now hesh up ya'll!
The last thing we wanna do Is wake up yer Maw."
Maw was expecting And needed her sleep,
So out they crept out the door Without making a peep.

They all looked around, and then they all spit.
The young'uns asked Bubba, "Paw, what is it?"
Bubba just stared; He could not say a word.
This was just like all of The stories he'd heard.

It was Santy Claus on the roof, Darn tootin'
But the boys didn't know; They was about to start shootin'!
They aimed their shotguns and nearly made a mistake
That would have resulted in venison steak.

Bubba hollered out, "Don't shoot, boys!"
That's Santy Claus And he's brought us some toys.
The dogs were a-barkin' And a-raisin' cain,
And Bubba whistled, and shouted, And called them by name.

"Down, Spot! Shut up Bullet! Quiet, Pete and Roscoe!
Git, Turnip and Tater and Sam and Bosco!"
"Git down from that porch! Git down off that wall!
Quit shakin the trailer, Or you'll make Santy fall!"

The dogs kept a-barkin' And wouldn't shut up,
And they trampled poor Pete Who was only a pup.
Santy opened his bag, And threw out some toys.
Bubba got most, But left a few for the boys.

Since the guns had been dropped He just might not die.
He jumped in his sleigh, Told his reindeer to hurry.
The trailer started to wobble Santa started to worry.

Just as the reindeer Got into the air,
The trailer collapsed, But Bubba didn't care.
He was busy lookin' At all his new toys.

Then a thought hit him, And he said to the boys:
"Go check on yer Maw, Make sure she's all right.
That roof fallin' on her Could-a hurt just a might."

But Maw was OK, And the girls were too.
They fixed up the trailer; It looked good as new.
And as for Bubba, He liked Old St. Nick,
But Santa thought Bubba Was a pure-in-tee hick!

Bubba had a nice Christmas, And the boys did, too.
And the Taylors wish A Merry Christmas to you!

(from some clever source on the internet - not my prose!)
Mery Christmas and Happy New Year!

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Rose

I'm re-reading the "Jake" book (So You Don't Want to Go to Church Anymore) and glad I am because I need to be reminded of many important spiritual truths that the book contains.

Yesterday while reading I was reminded that the middle of the story is not the same as the end. Well, that sure is a good thing in some areas of life, that don't ever seem to sort out over time no matter how hard you try, how long you wait or how much you pray.

The loneliness of life outside the church walls is bearable most times, but I have days when it really gets to me. Outside the church walls mostly just means that the facade of fellowship has been stripped away. But, in stripping away the facade we've also lost the opportunity for the few positive, if rather short term, relationships we could find inside the church walls. Now it just looks wintry.

I really love Aida's blog on winter being a season of rest - important truths there. Yet there are times when I find myself in or near despair. Because I have children I'm taking with me on this important yet often uncertain and at times bleak looking road.

Most of you know we moved around the time we quit "going to church." Now we're still figuring out a new life in more than one area. The three of them have to make do with each other and their parents for companionship and friendship more than I would like. And while that's not a bad thing, I can see it in their sweet faces that they are lonely for a special friend, for more meaningful outside connection in their lives, for the true community that is so hard to find. (Just because you have your family busy with activities, even good ones, does not mean real connection with others will necessarily happen quickly, if at all).

After years of homeschooling, which has its own challenges, we also quit "going to church." To quote Toula in Big Fat Greek Wedding, "because - we weren't weird enough!" When you step outside the 'norm' of education or religion, you can't just coast. None of the work is done for you by an institution to provide for your family's needs.

Some days, it all just really looks bleak. Holidays tend to not help in dealing with the underlying feelings of sadness, of not being connected to others the way we long to.

But perhaps that's why Father keeps slipping me little notes of hope, such as catching the last part of this song on the radio in the car the other day:

When the night has been too lonely
And the road has been too long
When you think that love is only
For the lucky, and the strong
Just remember, in the winter
Far beneath the bitter snow
Lies the seed, that with the sun's love...
in the spring, becomes... the rose :-)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Tea Time

Tea was discovered in China around 5,000 years ago. For many centuries after its discovery by Emperor Shen-Nung, tea was used for medicinal and spiritual purposes. When tea first arrived in Europe in the 1600’s, only the very wealthy could afford it as it cost over $100 a pound!

Fortunately the price did drop over time and the tea custom caught on, making its way through France, Holland and finally England. In the 1800’s, Queen Victoria relished the ‘tea parties’ that had become all the rage. Ladies began to don formal tea gowns, long and flowing and lacy. They fanned themselves with beautiful fans in the afternoon heat as they rode by carriage to meet with friends in a beautiful garden, perhaps entertained by orchestra music as they sipped their tea and nibbled on scones, tiny sandwiches or other delicacies.

The Victorian era was a kinder and gentler time, one I have longed to visit in a ‘time warp.’ I wonder what it would be like to live back then. I look at teacups in antique shops and think about a time that groups of friends actually DRANK out of them, rather than having them just adorn a curio cabinet.

We watched "Karate Kid Part II" the other day and I was reminded of the wonderful Japanese custom of the tea ceremony. This is a great movie for many reasons, but I would watch it just to see the touching romantic tea ceremonies served by the movie’s heroines to the men they love.

I’ve casually priced tea cups in antique stores. Real ‘antique’ cups start at around $27 and go up from there. I’ve seen a single cup priced as high as $80. But, I’ve also seen modern day imitations of old cups for very low prices. I picked up a nice one for $2 at a flea market and gave it to a friend. Another one I found at a hobby and decorative store on clearance for $3.50. I collect inexpensive antiques because of the nostalgic, warm feeling they give me - whether or not they’re ‘real’ is of little importance.

A really neat website I found with all kinds of history, customs and cute suggestions is here.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Closer to Fine

I hadn’t thought of this song in years, but for some reason it just popped into my head after hearing of some struggles that a brother is going through. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with Indigo Girls, they broke ground in the American folk- rock scene in the 80’s and their most popular song to date, Closer to Fine, was released in 1989.

One important thing I’ve learned over the years is how non- or not specifically Christian teachings, books, art and music can hold significant if incomplete truths. (and how some "Christian" teachings can really screw you up!) I see many ideas in the song that speak remarkably about my journey outside the box.

We’ve knocked ourselves out trying to find the answers to finding it and fixing it, whatever ‘it’ is. We have a kazillion different denominations out there, each with their own set of ‘answers’ on ‘doing God right.’ And many of us had the experiences of constantly trying to fix what was wrong, repair what was broken, and nail down and break that family curse 6 generations back through the right ‘healing’ seminar. Many of us could re-wallpaper our houses six times over with all the ‘Christian’ 7 Easy Steps, Doctrine Explained to Dummies, Fill in the Blank to Fullness in Christ workbooks, and 12 weeks to healing books on our shelves. I love how Darin puts it in his "Meaning of Life" blog. We’re like a bunch of 4 year olds gritting our teeth trying to grow a beard like Daddy.

As the song reflects, the human race is usually looking for answers in a bottle or other people, in children, in doctors (pastors?), psychiatrists, higher education, and last but not least religion! Somehow I don’t think the 'workout' referred to in the song is physical!

We have thousands of answers from hundreds of denominations, many claiming to be "the only right way." So then goes the struggle for answers in some definitive. Baptist? Mormon? Catholic? Jehovah's Witness? Anglican or post-modern? This doctrine or that doctrine? It appears that some Christians find an answer they are comfortable, happy (and sometimes quite smug about) in organized religion.

For some of us though, trying to follow the crooked line of religious answers becomes torment. The more we look and the harder we try - the further we become from the answer. Maybe the answer is just to BE - to live life always knowing that because Jesus made a way, Father is our friend- and we might be closer to fine. (If only all Christians truly understood the gospel better…) Maybe it’s time for all of us to just let our hair down and take a ride on the Polar Express.

The only thing I regret they left out of this song was to stop looking for the definitive in religion, rather than in simple, abiding relationship with the Trinity. As we learn to just be in relationship with the living God, we are getting closer to fine every step of the way.

Besides the really thought provoking lyrics, I'm impressed at how these gals can walk, sing, dance AND play a guitar all at the same time. As one who usually can't brush her teeth and walk through a room at the same time without tripping over something, it looks pretty cool. Lyrics are posted below the video.

Im trying to tell you something about my life
Maybe give me insight between black and white
And the best thing youve ever done for me
Is to help me take my life less seriously
Its only life after all

Well darkness has a hunger thats insatiable
And lightness has a call thats hard to hear
I wrap my fear around me like a blanket
I sailed my ship of safety till I sank it
Im crawling on your shores

I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains
I looked to the children, I drank from the fountains
Theres more than one answer to these questions
Pointing me in a crooked line
And the less I seek my source for some definitive
(the less I seek my source)
The closer I am to fine
The closer I am to fine

And I went to see the doctor of philosophy
With a poster of rasputin and a beard down to his knee
He never did marry or see a b-grade movie
He graded my performance, he said he could see through me
I spent four years prostrate to the higher mind
Got my paper and I was free

I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains
I looked to the children, I drank from the fountains
Theres more than one answer to these questions
Pointing me in a crooked line
The less I seek my source for some definitive
(the less I seek my source)
The closer I am to fine
The closer I am to fine

I stopped by the bar at 3 a.m.
To seek solace in a bottle or possibly a friend
And I woke up with a headache like my head against a board
Twice as cloudy as Id been the night before
And I went in seeking clarity.

I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains
I looked to the children, I drank from the fountains
Yeah we go to the doctor, we go to the mountains
We look to the children, we drink from the fountains
Yeah we go to the bible, we go through the workout
We read up on revival and we stand up for the lookout
Theres more than one answer to these questions
Pointing me in a crooked line
The less I seek my source for some definitive
(the less I seek my source)
The closer I am to fine
The closer I am to fine
The closer I am to fine

Friday, November 14, 2008


Division is the word that keeps coming to mind when I look around me these days. It is every which way I turn. I've had several sad division encounters lately, but will choose one to share now.

A few days ago, a neighbor’s car pulled into my drive. I was excited because a) we seldom have visitors, b) this was a neighbor I had been trying to meet for months and c) phase one of our new porch had just been completed. So I eagerly ran out to the front yard in my bare feet, something I wouldn’t have done if I’d been thinking. Red ants abound here in east Texas.

I greeted him and his wife, who I hadn’t met before. I had only met him once briefly and hoped we’d get to visit again. He said he had only stopped by to ask me a couple of questions, which I answered. Then, I invited them to come up and sit on my new porch. "Could you come up to the porch and sit?" I asked. "I’m standing in an ant pile getting eaten alive!" I hoped they’d stay for a glass of tea and a chat. But, he declined quickly and said he didn’t want to bother me. He was gone rather abruptly.

Sometimes in a conversation you get a very strong feeling of how the person feels or what they may be thinking, even if they don’t say a word to that effect. I had a very strong impression that he was thinking, "I’m black. You’re white. There is a wall between us and so I’m not going to bother you."

I came back inside, started washing dishes, and found myself in tears before I knew it. I stopped what I was doing and just sat at the table and buried my head in my arms and cried. I was crying because I was disappointed, crying because I was excited that someone might sit on my porch and it hadn’t happened. I was crying in frustration at seeing that tiresome old dividing wall of racism between us. But other times in my life, none of this would have upset me so much or brought me to tears. I think the division he sees between people for a whole host of reasons, must be making Father cry extra hard right now for me to have that reaction.

This election has been like an earthquake. No one was indifferent or unaffected. One black lady I know said this election is the craziest thing she ever saw. Her black friends told her if she didn’t vote for Obama she isn’t black. Her white friends said if she did vote for Obama, she isn’t Christian. If I were her I might have wanted to leave the country for about a month, two weeks before and after the election, to maintain my sanity. I’ve certainly been rattled by all the doomsaying, the anger, the hysteria, the name-calling, the racism issues, the hand-wringing… the division. I have had to remind myself that God isn’t surprised nor unprepared for the days to come.

A hundred years ago, a black man couldn’t be invited to the White House without a scandal. Now we will have a black man and his family living in the White House. People say we’ve come a long way, and in some ways we have. But, I still wonder if the man and his wife down the road will ever come sit on my porch and feel comfortable.

Well, one day in heaven if not here on earth, I hope to have a beautiful porch with a variety of friends sitting on it. We will all hold hands…black and white and brown and all shades in between laced together, noticing no difference except how uniquely beautiful each one is.

"There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Galatians 3:28

Saturday, November 8, 2008

A Few Thoughts on the Election

There has been a lot of ruckus the last several days across the nation. Some of it good, some of it not so good. Many people are happy that Obama is our new president-elect. Others are not.

I’m not here to trumpet my political views in this blog (Can I hear a 'thank ya, Jesus!' LOL) I will say that no one seemed indifferent to this election. People were excited, nervous, happy, angry, uncertain, full of anticipation. I sifted through all kinds of emails, yahoo groups, and news articles about all of the involved candidates. Yes, I deleted at least a dozen of those "Obama is the anti-christ" urban legends. I saw all the Saturday Night Live skits (Amy Poehler was hilarious as Hillary Clinton and John McCain pretty doggone funny as himself). It wasn’t until the last few days before and since the election, though, that one very important issue came to the center of my focus.

Racism. It’s that icky word and that unpleasant subject that people don’t like to talk about. As mentioned above, I read all kinds of stuff about the election, but only in the last few days did I see a lot about how very much this election meant to the African American population. About how many were so full of anticipation that they wouldn’t let themselves get their hopes up too high. They spoke of how they had been disappointed in the past. Some of their leaders in the past century were killed. Other noteworthy African American icons were marginalized and mistreated for years. Would their canditate actually win, showing how much things have changed? John McCain remembered an incident over 100 years old during his concession speech. In 1901 , President Theodore Roosevelt invited educator Booker T. Washington to dine at the White House. When news of this dinner spread, outrage ensued. Reading a couple of quotes from old newpaper articles about this dinner, I am shocked at what passed for acceptable journalism back then. Even by today’s "National Enquirer" standards.

No matter what one’s preferred candidate or party, I think all of us who are on the journey to love have to be happy that such ugly racism has been trumped this time, by the election of the first black President of the United States. A few decades ago, saying a dirty word in reference to blacks was done as casually as lighting up a cigarette in the doctor’s office. Now both of these actions cause gasps and immediate chastisement. As the old Virginia Slims ad used to say, we’ve come a long way, baby!

But we’re not there yet. Racism no longer has the same stronghold on our culture that it once did, but it is sadly still alive and well.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

If we never meet again this side of heaven

I remember my best friend in 7th grade, a girl named Shelley with curly black hair pulled in pigtails wearing overalls. Although I haven’t seen her in at least 5 years and very little for years before that, I still find myself thinking of her rather often. We were best friends all the way through high school, despite being separated in different schools for much of that time. We hit rough spots, traveled different paths and grew apart for a few years. Our friendship was renewed for a few blessed years after I became a mother. Then, she disappeared into the abyss of missing friends. I email her now and again, and sometimes get a response. She sounds stressed, distant, buried in her work.

I imagine the fellowship we had in school being restored. Maybe Father won’t mind if we pass notes containing hilarious cartoons such as got me kicked out of study hall for laughing so hard. Maybe we can have face to face conversations about Jesus, like we had online for awhile when I became a new Christian. I picture the closeness, the rapport and caring for one another - just like things used to be, only even better.

I think of former friends who turned against me, or dropped me because we had religious differences. And some who unexplainably just grew cool and distant. It still pains me to remember how and why some of these friendships ended. I remember what I once loved about them and picture that actually restored… only better.

I think of my internet friends, who literally live coast to coast with me smack dab in the middle in Texas. I picture seeing them 3-D, up close and personal. Hearing their voices without the static of a phone line and the feel of wrapping my arms around them in a hug. I wonder what their day to day lives are really like. There is only so much one can really share online.

I remember my sweet grandmother, who died 12 years ago. And the children I’ve never met, the ones that were never born because I was listening to the world instead of my heart. And the godly teachers who have ministered to me that I may never meet this side of heaven. And some of my favorite heroes of love, such as Mother Theresa… Florence Nightingale… Billy Graham… Steve Irwin. And of course, the best of all… Jesus… face to face.

I find this song a great comfort and inspiration. Although there are many versions of the song recorded, I’m going to include the one by the Man in Black who wrote the song:

Friday, October 17, 2008

Front Porches

One of the things I love most about old homes, is that most of them have front porches. The style of homes is a reflection of the times we live in. New homes with no front porch are being built left and right in suburban areas. They usually house people who work all day, then rush the kids to soccer and ballet lessons, then zip into their garage at night and aren’t seen again until they leave to take the kids to school the next morning on their way to work.

Front porches with swings, gliders and rocking chairs remind me of the time when they were built. A time when people had time to just sit and visit. I’ve only heard the stories from older folks. They would sit on the porch in the evenings after dinner. If they were lucky it might be screened in. Otherwise they would patiently shoo away flies, enjoying the warm breeze on a summer evening. After a little while, a neighbor or two, or four or six, was sure to come by. They would all settle in for a visit as the lady of the house brought out iced sweet tea or lemonade. If they stayed a while, maybe some homemade cookies or cobbler would follow.

I’ve read a couple of books written on how to form ‘networks’ and join clubs as a way of making friends and forming community. They teach you the strategy of finding the right friends and finding your place, as aggressive and well-planned as job-hunting. For us introverts, even the prospect can be exhausting.

A lady I once knew told me that her parents were among the least sociable and talkative people in the neighborhood, but they always had friends and they always had company. All they did really, was sit out on the front porch evenings and some neighbors were sure to come by and see how they were doing. A pitcher of fresh tea could go a long way in building bonds back then. Now you apparently have to have a well-honed strategy and a PLAN.

I feel like I was born about a hundred years too late. We have plans to build a porch onto our house. Long term plans include adding a larger flower garden to the front yard that can be viewed from the porch. Will others come and sit there? Will they be glad they came over, if they do? Sometimes, hoping for this is like planning to go into the buggy-whip business. As if I’ll offer the best buggy-whip anyone ever saw… that’s about a hundred years too late for anyone to have a use for.

But I’m planning on these things anyway, because they are on my heart. An important truth that organized Christianity usually doesn’t tell us is, follow and trust your heart. Because you have been given a new heart. Perhaps Father will bless others through my ‘outdated’ way of doing things in ways I haven’t imagined yet.

Friday, September 26, 2008


I’m glad that my ‘fellowship’ blog struck a note with some folks, including emails from a couple of people I hadn’t heard from in a while. Thank you for your feedback. It encourages me to know if what I’ve said is good food for thought; if it helps to connect even two people, I’m blessed. As our Lord has said, if there are two or more of you gathered in My name, there am I among you. In this crazy age where many of us have to rely on the computer for authentic conversation and fellowship, I believe He must be spending a lot of time holding our hands via cyberspace.

I want to say a few things now about another topic on my heart that I believe goes hand and hand with fellowship - hospitality. Like driving a team of horses, this has largely become a lost art as a result of changing times and culture. We’ve all heard the New Testament teachings about hospitality, such as Romans 12:13 telling us to share with others and practice hospitality. I’ve always gotten the impression that ‘practice’ is a very serious word in Biblical terms - it’s a lifestyle stemming from the heart. I don’t know about you, but I don’t see this as a way of life anywhere in my day-to-day.

Reading through the book of Acts, we see these people regularly gathered in each other’s homes, eating, drinking, praying, and enjoying one another’s company. They even shared their possessions and had everything in common, giving to each as had need! Having grown up in the modern western "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" culture, I can only imagine. I’ve actually had people get mad at me for offering to pay for their meal or for bringing them a gift on their birthday. In our society, many seem to have been brainwashed into thinking EVERYTHING is on a consumer basis - you only get what you pay for. No sharing allowed!

I’ve had some other frustrating experiences trying to ‘practice hospitality.’ Would you like to hear about the time we ate hot dogs and hamburgers for a week because of no-shows? Or the time our charcoal burned down to dust as we waited on our hour-late guests, who finally called to cancel? (We stuck a dozen raw burger patties in the fridge and went to Taco Bell). I’ve had my kids in tears because of careless last-minute play date cancellations and no-shows.

Some other times though, I’ve felt like I’ve really blessed someone in my home. I remember one friend from years ago who never wanted to leave. She’d kick back on my couch and say, "oh, it’s so relaxing here! I don’t want to leave!" And I didn’t want her to leave any more than she wanted to leave. Other guests have stayed to talk until the mosquitoes nearly ate us alive out in the back yard (the only place on our property that is large enough to accommodate playing children and conversing adults). The only times I really got into a lengthy and meaningful conversation with some of these people was when they came to my home to visit. If they don’t seem to want to leave, I feel like they’ve been blessed by their visit.

Good hospitality can produce such warm feelings of excitement, happiness and contentment. For instance, I still remember going to the home of my mother’s best friend each Christmas as a child. Her house was very modest, but beautifully and warmly decorated. Cinnamon-infused cider and sugar cookie smells wafted through the air as we were warmly greeted. As a shy child, her warm smile and hug meant the world to me. Then, I’d sip hot cider and eat the most delicious chili con queso and home-baked cheddar wafers as I poked around looking at her cheery living room Christmas decorations and answered her friendly inquiries as to what I’d been up to. She had the art of making me feel like the most special, cute, funny, clever person in the world. I’m sure she had a gift for making each guest who came into their home burst with good feelings about themselves.

Since becoming an adult, I’ve found such hospitality pretty hard to come by. My husband and I began a bi-annual tradition of going away together for a weekend to a bed and breakfast when our boys were old enough to stay with grandparents for a couple of days. There are two in particular that have blessed us. Good bed and breakfast owners feel like Grandmas and Grandpas. I revert from being a decades-old adult to a little kid going to Grandma’s for the weekend. Homemade cookies, warm hugs, a comfy room with a big quilt and bubble bath, a delicious breakfast, someone with a sweet smile fussing over me, and warm and caring conversation with our hosts fills the weekend. More than once as we’ve returned home, I’ve made this remark to my husband: "Wouldn’t it be nice if God someday brings us to a place in our lives when such edifying times with caring people aren’t something we usually have to pay for?"

Now, our hosts are lovely people and staying with them is worth every penny and then some. But, I daresay that there are others like us out there, who flock to the bed and breakfasts to grasp a little piece of a dream, of a time and place that is unhurried and rest for the soul. A setting where hospitality is a way of life.

The town we love to go to is a popular tourist spot. We walk the streets, admiring the beautiful antebellum homes, some large and some small. All have beautiful lawns, gorgeous flower gardens, gazebos, little ponds, tea gardens… and my favorite of all, front porches. I have the most intense feelings of nostalgia sometimes while walking there, feelings that I was just born about a hundred years too late.

I’m going to end here for now, but there will be more to come soon. Please stay tuned…

Blessings to all,

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Overcoming Fear

"There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love." 1 John 4:18

It is interesting that this verse contrasts fear and love, instead of fear and comfort, or fear and safety, or even fear and rest. Thinking about it, I can see that most of my fears have been rooted in loss of love, or perceived loss of love.

Darin Hufford’s recent blog on treating fear as something we have a choice on caught my attention. I believe that we women really need to hear the perspective of a man, because they tend to think more logically. A common experience I’ve had as a female is getting so caught up in my emotions that I can’t think straight anymore.

Darin’s blog was timely because there is an important decision we’ve been looking at making that could greatly affect our future. I was raised in a household that was hugely fearful. It was as though we had to consult the God of Fear first for every decision we made. If fear said it had a 1 percent chance of turning out awful, we would probably decide not to do whatever it was.

I’ve been controlled by fear all too often. As a result I’ve actually ended up enduring a lot of awful things that I might have avoided if I hadn’t been afraid! I’ve also missed out on some really good things.

You’d think I’d have the pattern nailed down in my logical mind by now, and be able to catch myself and stop it by now. But I’m proud of myself that at least now I’m trying to look at things more closely before making a knee-jerk fear decision, especially on big things.

I decided to discuss my situation with Darin and tell him of my concerns. I wanted to know if it was fear (unreasonable) or just concern (wisdom). He acknowledged the importance of my concerns and advised me to plan for the possibility that they would happen. But - here’s the clincher - he said, "But letting these things stop you (from following your dream) is being controlled by them. You’re stronger than that."

His words helped me clear up my wimbling back and forth. I can make myself dizzy with "On one hand, I want this, but on the other hand, it might be impractical, scary, dangerous, uncertain, a failure, a disaster, whatever." Yeah, I’ve been a poster child for that double-minded man verse in James and I look forward to Father maturing me out of doing that.

But I can see that thinking of myself as stronger than one who lets fear be in control is a picture of myself that I have not carried. Now I know what our course is. I can see that this will be another leg of our faith journey. And I hope it does a great work to really remove fear from my heart.

I also want to add that an important reason why that I struggle with fear is the lack of having somebody believe in me during my youth. As parents, no matter what age our children, may we all get across to them that we BELIEVE in them!! That’s an important foundational ingredient to any person. It’s kind of hard to find as an adult too. (You know you’ve found a real friend when they truly believe in you, even during the hard times!)

I decided to change my screen name here to Lionwoman...because lions are known as animals of great courage and dignity. As our Heavenly Father sees us.

Blessings to all,

Friday, August 8, 2008


I’ve often compared human fellowship to food. To me, time spent with a true friend or even an intriguing acquaintance is like a good, satisfying, nutritious meal. Think of a nice barbecued chicken breast, baked potato with all the fixings, a big salad and a big glass of cool water to wash it all down. Then, you get a nice warm chocolate dessert of some sort with ice cream. Now, that’s living. You get things that are good and nourishing for you in this meal, plus some things that just make you feel good. You’re totally satisfied, not hungering for anything more. This, to me, is what true fellowship is like.

Unfortunately, I’ve found this type of "good meal" fellowship to be relatively rare in our society of fierce independence, over-achievement, and focus on material gain. Our culture is an absurd reversal of many third world countries I’ve read about. Over there, many people live on a very simple diet. Many children are sustained on only rice because that’s all they have. Others may be lucky and also have millet or corn. Women feed their children on $2 a week. Yet when you see photos of these people in these places, there are always groups of people TOGETHER. They sit together, they lean against each other. Children are photographed sitting in a circle laughing or playing together. Women sit in a circle grinding grain or weaving while they talk. Men work the fields in groups. They live in overcrowded dilapidated houses and huts together. When illness strikes they care for each other until there are no healthy left to care for the sick. Sometimes, they lie down and die together.

Here in the U.S., most of us are overfed and many are overweight. We are more obsessed with healthy diets and weight monitoring than any other country, yet we are dying of eating-related disorders at an alarming rate. We have far more food to gorge ourselves on than is good for us and many of us have the love handles to prove it. Yet, as a culture we’re the poster children for emaciated, starving people in the spiritual and emotional realm.

I’ve spent a lot of time with my ear to the ground over the last few years and realized that though most people are hard-pressed to see or admit it, the average person is lucky if they have even one or two real friends. We know lots of people and call many of them friends, but in reality they’re just people we’re busy with.

I’ve always thought of these "busy-buddies" as cheese and crackers. Now, there’s nothing wrong with cheese and crackers, but if that’s all you ever eat, you aren’t truly being nourished. You can eat them until you don’t want anymore, and perhaps feel a little sick from all you’ve eaten. But you’re not satisfied. You want something more. You feel lethargic because you’re stuffed with something that hasn’t given you true nourishment. You didn’t really enjoy them all that much while you were eating them, but you were hungry and that’s all there was, so you ate and now you’re glutted but not fulfilled.

A snack is a snack. Light and shallow acquaintances are like snacks. Some are the yucky pre-packaged, God-only-knows-what’s-in-them orange crackers with quasi-peanut butter. These are not only not nourishing but downright bad for you. I’ve had some acquaintances and even ‘friends’ like this.

Other cheese and crackers may be good quality stuff. These are nice people you may know in the neighborhood, in the church, or in the book club. You chat pleasantly with them when you see them. Sometimes, you pursue a deeper relationship with them only to find out they don’t have time for real friends because of all the hustle-n-bustle in their lives. Nice people or no, activity and accomplishment will always take precedence over real relationship for them. You hoped it would turn out to be a real meal, but they remain cheese and crackers.

Sometimes I’ve come to a point in life where I wonder, "is it better to just go hungry than have another cheese and cracker snack?" At times I’ve glutted myself on "cheese and crackers" (including the stale vending-machine variety) until now when I’ve come to the point where I feel I’d rather starve than ever touch them again.

Perhaps Father has a design behind this dilemna? I’ve read the verses in the Bible. "Come and eat, and be satisfied." And thought, what IS he talking about? I go to church and I’m not satisfied. I participate in programs, activities and "home groups" and I’m not satisfied. We’ve been promised by institutional church that these things bring life, yet they don’t. Why does IC harp so much on fellowship? Could it be that they have accepted human fellowship as a substitute for true fellowship with God?

I’m going through a time where I’m struggling with whether I’ll starve if I really go hungry. I realize I’ve lived as though I’ll starve if I don’t eat these vending-machine cheese and crackers. I hope Father is getting me much closer to the point that I really am courageous enough to go hungry for however long I must. Maybe we have to be REALLY hungry, to have a cavernous hole in our stomach to be able to hold Him and all He wants to give us.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Redneck Joke with a Lesson

There’s another favorite redneck joke of mine that goes as follows:

Cyril wasn’t known for being the brightest boy in town. Darryl decided to try to help his little brother one day to become smarter so he gave him a handful of small brown things.

"These are smart pills, runt. Now, eat ‘em up." Cyril ate ‘em up. "Now I’m gonna give you some more tomorrow, and keep givin’ you some every day. You gotta take ‘em a while ‘fore you start feelin’ smarter."

Darryl gave his little brother Cyril some more of the smart pills every day, doubling the dosage each time. Cyril would chew his way through patiently each time, but as time went on, he started to dislike the bad taste in his mouth after he’d eaten them. He told his brother about the bad taste, but Darryl always said, "That’s in your head, boy. These are smart pills. Now keep eatin’ ‘em, and one day you’ll git smart!"

So Cyril kept doing his darndest to eat every single pill he was given. His chewing became slower and slower as his facial expression revealed more and more how distasteful he found the pills. His stomach churned after he ate them and he wondered why he wasn’t getting any smarter, just feeling frustrated at how dumb he still felt and queasy besides. Finally one day when Darryl tried to give Cyril his daily dose, Cyril declared, "Maaaan, these here smart pills taste like goat turds! I ain’t eatin’ no more of these thangs!"

Darryl heartily thumped his brother on the back as he declared gleefully, "NOW you’re gettin’ smarter, little brother, NOW you’re gettin’ smarter!"


Funny and crass though this old joke is, there are some ironic parallels I see in this to my experience in institutional church. I also ‘ate’ whatever I was given. I was told if I came often enough and ‘ate’ enough of what they served up, I’d sooner or later turn into a model Christian.

While my experience wasn’t as much of a total scam as poor Cyril’s, I will say that I feel like I ate enough ‘turds’ at institutional church that it was making me sick both spiritually and emotionally. When I shared these feelings with other members or leaders, they told me it must be because of doubt, unbelief, unconfessed sin, etc. and I needed to have a ‘deliverance’ of some sort. I should read this book or do that Bible study, come to church more often, and find an accountability partner. If I kept eating their food, sooner or later it was bound to do the job they promised it would.

Finally we walked out. It wasn’t working. I had realized, "This is not doing what they said it would do. I feel worse instead of better. I just can’t do it anymore." I don’t think Father would ever laugh at me, but perhaps he was a bit like Darryl in saying, "Now you’re getting somewhere, my daughter, now you’re getting somewhere."

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Redneck Jokes for the Week

On the lighter side of things, here are a few that made me guffaw:

You might be a redneck if:

-Down where you come from reruns of Hee Haw are called documentaries.

-You've been on TV more than 5 times describing the sound of a tornado.

-You think the OJ trial was a taste test between Sunkist and Minute Maid.

-You were acquitted for murdering your first wife after she threw out your Elvis 8-tracks.

-You had to remove a toothpick for your wedding pictures.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Bear the Dog

Bear is our black laborador retriever. She died on Thursday, June 26. But I still find myself referring to her in the present tense many times, because I am trying to learn to see things from an eternal perspective. Time is irrelevant to many things in the spiritual realm.

We first learned of Bear through an on-line ad that said an elderly couple in poor health needed a new home for their 10 month old black lab. We had finally settled into our country home, winter was past, and it was time to realize a long-awaited dream: to get a family dog.

Knowing that cuddly little puppies are quickly snapped up by eager new owners, we decided to start with an older dog that might not so easily find a home, but not an adult dog who might not take a liking to our rambunctious 3 year old. So I know Bear had our name on her, written by our Father. When we arrived at the listed address, Bear was sleeping on the porch of a tiny, run down house surrounded by a yard so small it could hardly be called a yard. When we got out of the car, she woke up and ran to the fence, wagging her tail and barking hello. We all fell in love on the spot.

Bear weighed about 65 pounds when we got her and continued gaining a pound a week for most of the time she was here on earth with us. As big as she was, she never lost those big round puppy eyes. You could say Bear is very boisterous. She knocked my three year old daughter flat on the ground every time she went out the door for the first couple of weeks. By the end of the third week my daughter was lying across Bear’s back, singing to her or sharing a cookie with her. Bear quickly bonded to all of us and learned good dog behavior in a short time, though her eagerness didn’t always permit her to exercise what she knows.

A couple of weeks later we unexpectedly found ourselves the proud family of two other puppies (that story another time). Bear happily took charge as the young ‘mother’ of the two younger pups and the dominant dog among the three. Strider and Ranger took their cues from Bear. Soon, the three of them could be seen splashing in the creek, then rolling in the dirt, then jumping on the nearest available human with the cleanest clothes on. The mail carrier learned to slow down as she approached our box, knowing that Bear would run to greet her. She also learned to roll up her truck window when she stopped to deliver our mail, since Bear was more than eager to hop through it and help her with the rest of the afternoon’s mail.

Bear chewed through several pairs of shoes, a couple of lawn chairs, a set of practice golf balls, a couple of shirts, and a copy of "He Loves Me" by Wayne Jacobsen, among other things. She eagerly ate apples, carrots, celery and cucumbers. She loved it when I picked her a handful of blackberries and fed them to her. I’d never heard of a dog with such vegetarian tastes, but Bear seemed eager to share in everything we did, including what we ate.

One of my favorite memories of her is the way she’d hop up in my lap, all 70 plus pounds, as if she were a little lap dog, and throw her head over my shoulder as I hugged and talked to her. She was like a dog version of Baby Huey, a giant baby just wanting endless love and attention.

The morning that she died, she seemed fine all the way up to the time when we found her dead. My last memory of her was having her come barreling up to me as I walked up from the mailbox. She had rolled in something smelly the night before, and she was all wet from the rain, so I pushed her down when she jumped on me. I told her to ‘sit’ and she did. I patted her head, and she trotted off. Half an hour later we found her dead.

Father is slowly but surely growing faith in me. I would have kicked myself for pushing her down a few years ago. I would have been mad at myself for losing the "last chance" to love on her with a big hug. But now, I think that that was one small moment in time. I think Father will redeem all things that hurt us in our hearts. I know that my Father who notices when a single sparrow falls, remembers us with great concern when our pets die.

The vet said she died of an aneurysm, which is unusual but not unheard of in dogs. We brought her body home, and lovingly buried her beneath a tall oak tree at the edge of our woods. We cried as we shoveled dirt over our young dog’s body. But we smiled as we stood by the new grave, remembering how Bear loved to gobble blackberries by the handful as offered to her. We laughed and shook our heads as we remembered how she would knock a person and their chair over wanting to be a "baby lap dog" at 70 something pounds. We cried some more, and laughed some more. We cried because we miss her and we know we won’t see her again for a while. We laughed because we know Father loves her, and we are picturing our Bear playing with other animals romping in the heavenly realms.

I am not here to present a case for animals in heaven or not. Like with many things, people can and will interpret Scripture to say whatever they want it to, according to what is already in their hearts. When I see my heavenly Father face to face, if I’m wrong and animals are not in heaven, I don’t think he’s going to cluck and point the finger at me for believing such a thing. People who dedicate their time to arguing for the doctrine of "no animals in heaven" just irritate me. It’s not love to take a grieving animal lover who has lost a pet, and shove their face in "no animals allowed" doctrine and call it love. As with countless other examples, people who would do this value being "RIGHT" over being LOVING.

The idea of being in heaven with so many people everywhere, especially those who made a career out of being "RIGHT" about everything, just makes me nervous by itself (remember, I’m an introvert). The idea of no animals on top of that, just makes me depressed. It sounds a step better than hell, of course. But, then we are back to the core of Christianity. Is escaping hell what it’s all about? Or, getting in touch with our heart’s deepest cries and having them answered by our Father?

On that note, I am giving myself permission to be me. I am an animal lover who hopes to be surrounded by animals as well as people in heaven. And I hope Bear is the first one of them to knock me down with puppy eagerness as I walk in through the gates.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Time for a few redneck jokes

I decided it would be good to have a lighter side to my blog too. So, you will find some funny jokes and anecdotes interspersed with the "deep thoughts" posts. I am a lifelong Texan, and if you read my June 26 post you know that I have finally realized a lifelong dream of living in the country. Here in rural Texas, redneck jokes are especially common. I think it’s good for all of us to be able to laugh at ourselves (I think all of us Texans see ourselves in at least a few of them!)I think most of them can be attributed to Jeff Foxworthy, but there are a few I haven't heard from him.
Anyway, here are a few for today:

You might be a redneck if:
- Your wife can climb a tree faster than your cat.
- You pack in Wal Mart shopping bags to move or go on vacation (me!!).
- Your grandmother has "ammo" on her Christmas list.
- You keep flea and tick soap in the shower.
- You've been involved in a custody fight over a hunting dog.
- You have a complete set of salad bowls that say "Cool Whip" on the side.

(slap overall-clad knees and guffaw with laughter!! LOL)
Have a great day everyone!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Maybe there is a loving God

My distaste of a lot of today's contemporary Christian music has come out from under the rug along with other things in seeking God outside the box. As a result I have chucked a lot of my "Don't worry, be happy" contemporary Jesus music. But there are a few artists who I feel truly have more substance than form, rather than the other way around. Sara Groves is one of them. I thought of this song from her CD "All Right Here" which is a reflection of how I feel at this point in my journey. The sound on the music is a bit distorted on this homemade video someone did, but you might check out that whole CD - she has a gentle yet solid voice, and real substance in her music.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Who am I Created to Be?

Darin Hufford’s blog is great. You can find it at His June 24 blog, "Into the Wild," got me to really wondering about who I am created to be. It’s funny how many things we’re told in the institutional church about who we are in God’s sight that make no more sense while you’re there, than table manners being taught to a bear. Many times, I went through motions and mouthed words that I was told are true, but they didn't make sense even in my head, let alone my heart.

The truth is I never really liked going to church. I hated the feeling of always having to perform hoping it would merit affection, both from God and from others. I felt like I’d been set-up. Why exactly was I supposed to do all these things at "church" that felt unnatural and uncomfortable, which left me feeling depressed and hollow inside? I was told by people there, "This is who you are in Christ, isn’t it great?! Now you are expected to do all these things every Sunday and Wednesday" … that I really mostly felt useless doing! If I was supposed to be someone wonderful in Christ, why did I often leave church feeling at best empty and dissatisfied, often like a failure?

Now, you could say I’m out in the wild, and pondering a question: When you take away all the "shoulds" and "supposed to’s," what exactly is left? If I never again tried to walk the Christian walk using either of these terms again, what would happen? I don’t really know. I think this is what Darin was referring to when he wrote that people come to him with "fear that they don't know enough to survive in the wild…. More than anything, I find that people don't trust their hearts to carry and lead them."

Trying to absorb the idea of trusting my heart to carry and lead me feels like handing my 3 year old my credit card and telling her to live it up. Sadly I’m a product of the institutional church. Presumably we need to be elaborately managed every step of the way or we’ll royally screw up. Getting out of this thinking is going to take a while.

To quote Darin again, "There's a point in every Christian's life when they have to just trust that they are a Christian….It's not a question of what to do! It's a question of who you are. Settling in and trusting what you are is what it's all about."

Quoting from Hebrews 4:12, "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit…it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." Darin’s "Wild" blog hit me like this verse says the Bible does. And I feel like God is asking, do you want to come with me and find out who you really are, what I made you to be?

Is this really allowed? Is someone going to call the doctrine police and tell them to come get me, drag me to a pew and tie me there until I repent? This whole thing makes me nervous. But in a good way. I feel like Forrest Gump in the movie, when he was given his release papers from serving the U.S. Army. I’m looking over my shoulder to see if I’m being followed as I’m running for the door as fast as I can..

Quoting Darin again, "When a tiger that has been raised in captivity is released, there is one important skill to learn. He has to first learn to do NOTHING, and do it well. For most Christians, this sounds like heresy. It feels totally wrong because all we've ever been told is to produce, produce, produce. The moment we stop producing, we begin to feel guilty and condemned."

I felt like the world had stopped in its orbit when I read this. Could this be what God is trying to tell me? It has been heavy on my heart. Step one: trust your heart, because Jesus lives there. I’ve had my fill of splashing around in the shallow end with my stupid plastic blow-up duckie routine of show up, sing the songs, act like you’re bubbling over with spiritual connection as a result of singing the songs, listen to someone else tell you what God is saying, let someone else tell you where to sign up and help the institution, write out your "tithe" check, get in the car and go home. Repeat next week, and next week, and next week… until one day you’ll die and hopefully make it to heaven, if God thinks you did good enough. Drawing a deep breath, I now plunge in a few feet deeper and start floating on my back, noticing that the water is cooler and more refreshing away from the heat and noise of the shore.

These last few months have been wonderful in many ways, but unsettling. I have things I "prostrated in prayer for," over a period of several years. I have a new daughter. I have a new country home. I have a thriving flower and vegetable garden. I have chickens. I have two cute little dogs that are going to grow into big dogs. My husband is home a lot more. We are spending most of our time together just as a family.

These are such incredible blessings that I think I’m still in shock at having received them. I’ve attributed "happy shock" to part of why I feel I’m having trouble enjoying all I now have. But that’s not all of it. After all God has done for me, I have often felt too guilty to enjoy his blessings. We all know the IC's teachings, that God only gives it to you so you can turn around and give it away. In the institution’s eyes, I’d be labeled a total failure. I don’t go to church. I don’t tithe. I haven’t met many new people yet so have few interactions blessing others outside of cyberspace.

But I’m starting to actually get comfortable in my own skin for the first time since becoming a Christian. I love being alone with my family, animals, plants and God. I’ve been encouraged by my friend Aida, who wrote a blog you can read at I am an introvert by nature and I am asking Father to help me "just be an introvert" as a bear is just a bear.

What does it mean to be an introvert? Well, on the rare occasions when time permits, I can stare at a bird feeder for an hour without moving, watching the birds. I have been known to gaze at a tree for several minutes doing the same thing. I have spent happy hours planting flowers and planning what I’m going to put in the garden next. Earlier today, I sat down with my big puppies, or little dogs, and looked into their eyes for several minutes. I am trying to tame my young rooster, Clyde, and get him to like me. I catch him, scoop him up and stroke his head and chin, clucking as best I can imitate and crooning to him. Sometimes my only reward is getting pooped on. Once in a while, he’ll close his eyes and stretch out his neck.

These are non-people related things that I deeply enjoy doing. Institutional church has taught me that these things are not only a frivolous waste of time but among the wood and straw that will be burned on Judgement Day. At each of the charismatic churches we attended, the message was clear: whoever runs the fastest, produces the most, and keeps the widest smile on their face wins the most prizes. So for months, each time I would indulge in one of my "introvert" activities, it felt like sneaking a double brownie fudge sundae when I was supposed to be on a diet. I would feel happy for a minute, then sad and guilty as I pictured God shaking his head and frowning at how little I had to impress Him before the throne. One of the favorite "Scripture Slaps" of the institutional church seems to be 1 Cor. 3: 12-15.

But again, my friend Aida to the rescue! During a discussion we had about her "Being Alone" blog, she told me, "Amy, religion misses the whole point of that scripture. It’s not the "secular" things we do that will be burned up. It’s the things that are done outside of relationship with God. Actually, it’s only the works that Jesus does through us that will last. If he happens to be picking up seashells at the moment and we join him in doing that, then it’ll be a work that survives. However, if he doesn’t happen to be going door to door passing out tracts, then that work will be burned up."

Could my Father God be blessing me to have the time to take joy in simple things, such as thriving petunias, puppies chewing on my shoes, and trying to gain the affection of a formidable-looking young rooster? Could I actually develop a real relationship with the One who loves me by doing such simple, "frivolous" things?

After having been chased with the IC "production" whip for years, it feels at times like heresy. But I think of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. What did they do? They tended the garden, petted the animals and communed with God. They didn’t worry about what God wanted from them - they just "were." They were living as they’d been created - as human beings. (Somehow, in our culture, we’ve gotten the idea that we’re human "doings," and nowhere is this more prevalent than in the Church.) They were doing what Darin is urging us to do - to get back in touch with ourselves and live in the Wild.

Hello out there!

Hello out there! This is my second attempt at blogging. The first one was lost after a hectic fall last year. I hope that everyone who reads my blog will enjoy it and be blessed! I'm Amy, happily married mom to three wonderful children, one cat, two dogs, seven chickens, and a partridge in a pear tree. (just kidding!)

One focus of this blog will be my journey as a Christian. Another will be living life as an introverted Christian. Being an introvert is a subject I believe the Lord is really encouraging me to think on (ha ha, something we introverts most love to do!) and share with others about.

Y'all have a blessed day,